Army of Two PlayStation 3 & Xbox 360
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Electronic Arts
Release Date: Out Now
Third person shooters have been steadily growing in popularity in recent years and it’s no surprise to see more and more of them arriving on the latest consoles. Army of Two puts you in the shoes of one of two mercenaries giving you the option to be assisted by either an AI companion or, preferably, a human one either online or offline. It’s a game that never excels but remains action-packed throughout. Some may be offended at some of the real-world themes the game touches on but the emphasis is firmly kept on being an over-the-top experience rather than trying to be realistic.
As the title suggests, the game is focused on the exploits of Salem and Rios, two mean mercenaries who don’t flinch at even the most demanding missions. In an attempt to be topical, the storyline sees Salem and Rios, an Army of Two who, amongst other things have to deal with terrorists in the Middle East. The game may feature a fictional storyline but it’s obvious where the influences have come from and the developers haven’t done much to disguise the fact. For some, certain aspects of the game such as the suicide bombers you’ll encounter and the occasional derogatory comments against the armed forces probably won’t go down too well.
Putting a possibly offending storyline aside however, you have to admit that Army of Two makes good use of the two-player co-op theme. The game’s Campaign mode can be played as a single-player game (with the AI taking charge of the character you don’t choose to play as), a split-screen multiplayer or online co-op game. There is also a Versus mode that supports up to four players. The game really works well as a multiplayer experience because you have to play as a team thanks to the Aggro system. Essentially the way the Aggro system works is that your enemies will focus on the character that is giving them the most hassle. For instance, if your partner is keeping them occupied by laying down some suppressing fire, you will largely go unnoticed and be able to move to a more advantageous position.
The interaction between the characters is actually quite impressive. As well as one character taking the heat from the enemies in order to allow the other to go about his business unnoticed, each character is responsible for the safety of the other. If your partner is down, you’ll have to pull them to safety. One character can hold a makeshift shield, to protect both characters, whilst the other fires upon the enemy. When surrounded Salem and Rios can go back to back to fire at their enemies in slow-motion. Of course it’s far more entertaining when your partner isn’t AI controlled. The AI does a decent job but it’s a much better experience when you’re playing with a human companion especially as the Aggro system practically guarantees that you must play as a team in order to defeat your opponents and achieve your objectives.
Let’s not forget that both Salem and Rios are mercenaries and making money is a key part of the game. You’ll earn money by completing objectives and you’ll put the money to good use between the missions, as you can visit several weapons dealers to purchase additional weapons and upgrades. Armour can also be purchased if you can afford it. However, one thing you will notice in the game is how much damage Salem and Rios can take. It’s a reminder that whilst there are some real-life themes in Army of Two, the game is anything but realistic.
There is hardly any noticeable difference between the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Army of Two and both look good. The game isn’t a graphical showpiece for either system however, although the character models are quite impressive. The frame rate holds up quite nicely on both platforms although the amount of load times you’ll encounter is a little annoying at times. Thankfully the load times are never long and the general flow of the action isn’t severely affected by them.
Army of Two won’t give deaf gamers too many problems. Both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions are subtitled with the speaker’s name appearing alongside the dialogue. It would have been better had the text been placed in a dialogue box or against some kind of darkened overlay to make the text stand out at all times however. Occasionally, it can be a little tricky reading the text as the colour of the background can make it difficult to read the white text. The game’s tutorial is subtitled so you’ll be able to follow the general information that helps you make the most of the game’s Aggro system. The cutscenes and all of the important in-game dialogue is subtitled. The dialogue that takes place when Salem and Rios give praise or complaints to each other isn’t subtitled. Whilst this isn’t a problem it’s a shame that the developers didn’t see fit to subtitle this speech when so much of the other dialogue is subtitled. The GPS (activated by pressing the Back/Select button) provides plenty of visual information to help direct you in your mission. Directional arcs show you the general direction from which enemies are firing at you. The game doesn’t feature any captions but for the most part deaf gamers should be fine with the game. It’s also worth mentioning that the online co-op experience for deaf gamers won’t be quite as good as it is for hearing gamers due to the voice communications being used.
Both online and offline co-operative play continues to remain a popular aspect of videogames and Army of Two is certainly a game that proves to be enjoyable when played co-operatively. As a single-player game it isn’t quite so enjoyable but your AI partner does a decent job of helping you out. The subject matter of the game may be a thorny issue for some and a sensitive one for others but looking purely at the game-play, Army of Two is certainly a game for those who enjoy good co-op experiences. The game is short with only seven hours or so being required to play from start to finish which does devalue the game somewhat if you don’t intend to play the game in multiplayer mode. Those who do intend to play online or offline co-operative multiplayer games will certainly find something to like in Army of Two.